- Antioxidant properties of thyroid hormones
- Heavy bleeding, hypothyroidism, Vitamin A
- Feedback on the Premarin article
- Wine: Benefits and Possible Detrimental Effects
- Fat-free foods that make you fat
- A magic exercise to keep you slender
- Cancer Prevention Recipes: Shiitake Soup
- Hot tip: broccolini
- Beauty Corner: Let “mamma” save your neck
- Care of the Soul: You always have something to give; put yourself on your gift list
Antioxidant properties of thyroid hormones
Hormones that have documented significant antioxidant properties include estrogens (this means also phytoestrogens), DHEA, and melatonin. Progesterone has been shown to have antioxidant properties in the brain; in very high concentration, it also seems to be able to protect the LDLs. Now it turns out that our thyroid hormones also serve as important antioxidants.
Note my use of the plural: thyroid hormones. Thyroxine (T4) is only one of those hormones, and while it does have some antioxidant activity shown by protecting the LDL cholesterol from oxidation, T3, the most bioactive of thyroid hormones, was more powerful. Interestingly, T2, thought by physicians to have no physiological significance, was just as powerful as T3! Precursors, metabolites, and compounds that mimic the thyroid hormones also showed some antioxidant activity.
There used to be one school of thought that claimed that people who are hypothyroid should live longer because of their low metabolic rate. Now we know better. People with the deficiency of thyroid hormones have high cholesterol levels, and that cholesterol is poorly protected from oxidation. Hence they are at a higher risk of atherosclerosis.
As for the small percentage of people who are hyperthyroid, they do indeed produce so many free radicals due to their rapid metabolism that they too show increased oxidation of LDL cholesterol. This enormous production of free radicals overwhelms the body defenses.
As for supplementing, I am strongly in favor of a natural thyroid product such as Armour, which provides ALL the valuable thyroid hormones we need.
For another thyroid-related story in this issue, be sure to read the story that follows.
Chomard P et al. Effects of iodotyrosines, thyronines, iodothyroacetic acids and thyromimetic analogues on in vitro copper-induced oxidation of low-density lipoproteins. Biochem Pharmacol 1998; 55: 1591-601;
Sundaram V et al. Both hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism enhance low density lipoprotein oxidation. J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1997; 82: 3421-24.)
HEAVY BLEEDING, HYPOTHYROIDISM, VITAMIN A
The story that follows is excerpted from a longer account by Mary Cupp, who has given reprint permission. Please do not take it as a base of Dr. Northrup bashing. The point here is not who Mary’s physician was, but rather the crucial information about the connections between heavy bleeding, hypothyroidism, and Vitamin A. So many women suffer in a similar manner! Just before menopause, I myself ended up having a D&C and a blood transfusion due to life-threatening heavy bleeding. It’s probably only due to the cheapness of my HMO that it wasn’t a hysterectomy. And yes, it turned out that my thyroid levels were low and that there was a Vitamin A problem, judging by the yellow tinge of my skin, but it was only after menopause that I began studying hormones and figured out some connections.
Mary Cupp writes:
In October, 1983 I read an interview in “East/West Journal” in which Dr. Northrup spoke of treating endometriosis, fibroid tumors, and heavy periods etc. (all conditions that I was suffering from) with diet and vitamins. The article included two case histories of women who avoided hysterectomies through diet. One of them was titled “Escape from Hysterectomy”.
I arranged a consultation in June of 1986, while on a trip to Maine. She recommended a strict vegetarian diet, eliminating all dairy foods and eggs, and substituting soy milk for dairy. I went back to Virginia where I commenced the diet. Initially it did help to alleviate my pain, but over time my general health gradually deteriorated.
Shortly after this I moved to Maine. By this point the bleeding had stopped but I was still in a great deal of pain. I went to Women to Women and after an intake visit, and was sent to an iridologist/nutritionist who suggested that I use concentrated food supplements, such as bee pollen and chlorella, rather than vitamin pills. Over the next year I developed severe anemia. When I saw Dr. Northrup some time afterwards I had just been put on heavy iron supplementation. Her initial recommendation was a hysterectomy, the very surgery I had come to her to avoid. I refused.
Shortly afterwards I started to hemorrhage between periods for the second time and was placed on Norlutate™, a progesterone drug. I had to take two or more pills daily to stench the bleeding or my life would be put at risk. I could not stop the drug for even a day without it resulting in a hemorrhage. For the next four years (1989 – 1993) I lived through a hell in which I battled against abnormal bleeding while dependent on the prescription that Dr. Northrup dispensed. My life was caught up in a struggle to keep my blood count out of danger.
Although Dr. Northrup’s constant urging was a hysterectomy, she did permit me to try holistic remedies and encouraged a number of them. If I asked about some therapy (say herbs) she would give a referral. And she gave other referals as well. Some of the things she encouraged were macrobiotic diet, castor oil packs, aura healing, cranial massage, herbs, acupuncture, injections of vitamins C, B complex, Calcium, and Magnesium, homeopathy, psychic kinesiology (I call it this because I don’t have a better term for it), and (what else) psychotherapy. However, during this time I felt bothered by her non-committal attitude and by a kind of body language that felt odd, like the way she sometimes turned to the side when she spoke. Something didn’t feel right. If I would ask her what had helped other women, she would simply reply that every case was different and that she had never seen a case like mine. And she continued to urge a hysterectomy.
At one point Dr. Northrup put me on a drug called Synarel™ which was intended to stop the bodies production of estrogen in order to stop the bleeding. However, instead of causing the bleeding to stop, it set off a wild hemorrhage that I barely made it through. What Dr. Northrup had failed to warn me was that initially, instead of suppressing the estrogen, the drug causes it to surge. Although I called in three times in distress, I was given third party messages each time. In the medical records she claimed that she had “underestimated the estrogen surge” and failed to adequately respond as they “had some new staffing people”.
After about four years of this ordeal the company that made the Norlutate™ discontinued it. I was given a different prescription, Methergine™ to help in cases of heavy bleeding. By June (1993) I had little Norlutate™ left, so I decided to try it. However I got into trouble and almost bled to death.
I went to the emergency room with a blood count of 5.3 (normal is 11-15). I could barely stand up. Dr. Northrup was called. She said, “That’s it, that’s it, you’re having a hysterectomy first thing tomorrow morning! I’m going to do as I was taught (i.e. in medical school). This time I’m taking charge!” She told me that she would no longer be my doctor if I refused to submit to the surgery. Although I was given four units of blood (which for me added fear to the trauma), I was not given anything to stop the bleeding. Under these conditions I saw no way out and so, under duress, I signed the release. Yet even then, I was still literally begging Christiane to leave my uterus in. I recall her saying, “Well, you know you’ve tried everything.”
About six months after the surgery (Dec, 1993), I came upon a newsletter called “Second Opinion” by Dr. William Campbell Douglass M.D., which carried a column on alternative treatments. It discussed menorrhagia and cited a study in the 1977 South African Medical Journal using vitamin A in its treatment. It cited a 92.5% cure rate. It also mentioned that this treatment is used at Johannesburg General Hospital in South Africa and has a documented 92% cure rate over a ten year period. I subsequently took vitamin A in very high doses (100,000 IU per day) for about two months. This produced a dramatic improvement in my general health and alleviated a number of long standing symptoms.
I was puzzled by this as I had been taking a number of multiple vitamin preparations, eating lots of vegetables and drinking carrot juice. I had seen more than six nutritional professionals. Yet none of them had picked up on the fact that I needed vitamin A! I researched the vitamin and was able to uncover the underlying problem. Suddenly the mystery of my illness became transparent!
What I found out was that there are two forms of vitamin A. One of these, beta carotene, found in vegetables, is not true vitamin A but a precursor which must be converted by an enzyme in the presence of thyroxine, the thyroid hormone, if it is to be utilized as vitamin A by the body. I had been somewhat aware of the two forms, however most writing on nutrition, and the nutritionists with whom I had consulted, all recommended carotene as the preferred form in which to take the vitamin. What was emphasized is the fact that carotene can never be toxic in any amount, therefore it is considered safer. Additionally, the two forms are often treated as if they were interchangeable. Most multiple vitamin supplements currently on the market substitute beta carotene, unit for unit, for vitamin A and many do not label clearly that the switch has been made. (I had taken such supplements) What is rarely mentioned is that only the animal form has any vitamin A activity before conversion takes place. The rate of conversion varies in a normal population from about one third to one sixth.
What is even more rarely mentioned is that certain medical conditions such as diabetes and low thyroid in particular, may block conversion altogether. Thus a seemingly healthy vegetarian diet may be dangerously low in vitamin A for persons in these categories because of their inability to utilize carotene sources of the vitamin. Serious malnutrition may result if preformed vitamin A is not taken. The deficiency of vitamin A is extremely hard on the thyroid and the pituitary – organs central to women’s health. Low thyroid is extremely common in women with gynecological problems, especially dysfunctional uterine bleeding, and is a leading cause of hysterectomies. The thyroid condition is often overlooked, as frequently it does not show up on standard blood tests which are notoriously unreliable. (My tests results were normal, but my symptoms showed a classical profile for low thyroid.) I came to realize that, as a vegetarian, I had depleted my bodies vitamin A levels by not understanding this problem.
I also noted that certain foods frequently used by vegetarians fall into a category called goitrogens (from goiter) which tend to suppress thyroid activity further. This group includes otherwise good foods such as broccoli, kale, millet, and most notably soy. (Recall that Dr. Northrup recommended soy milk to replace dairy.) It has been well reported that infants on soy formula and adults consuming soy isoflavones often develop goitre and hypothyroidism. In one study, women consuming soy isoflavones developed disruptions of the menstrual cycle for up to three months after the soy was discontinued.
I further came to realize that taking iron for anemia, without vitamin A, could trigger hemorrhaging. This is because iron and vitamin A work synergistically in building blood. Therefore taking iron alone lowers vitamin A levels. (This is exactly the sequence that triggered my hemorrhage.) What is necessary, when this happens, is to take preformed vitamin A in very high doses – just the opposite of what I had been taught. High does are indicated and therapeutic in these circumstances because the bodies stores of the vitamin have become depleted, requiring large doses to return the body to a state of health.
From this research it became clear to me that the vegetarian diet Dr. Northrup had recommended could be dangerous for some women if not supplemented with preformed vitamin A. I strongly suspected that it may have been the underlying cause of my bleeding.
That summer (1994), Dr. Northrup’s book, Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom, was published. However, before I took a look at it, I ran across another book, Dr. Wrights’s Guide to Healing With Nutrition, (©1984) by Dr. Jonathan Wright. When I opened it my knees went weak. I was shocked to find that Dr. Wright had an entire chapter on the use of vitamin A for menorrhagia and claimed to get a better than 90% success rate. He emphasized that, “Most of the talk of vitamin A toxicity is overdone, more propaganda than accurate information.”. And he cited the study in the South African Medical Journal to support his recommendations. I knew that Dr Northrup was a close colleague of Dr. Wright and was quite aware of the therapies that he used. If Dr. Wright had this information, she had to know it. At this point I knew I’d better take a look at her book.
When I opened the book, I found what I had feared. Dr. Northrup specifically recommended up to 100,000 IU per day of vitamin A for up to three months in her section on menorraghia (p.141- 143), citing the reference in the 1977 South African Medical Journal. She was also aware of the thyroid connection to bleeding (from medical school) and claimed to do prolactin hormone testing in cases of bleeding. Yet she had never even mentioned any of these connections to me the during the entire four years that I was bleeding! I was devastated.
Please help save other women from unnecessary hysterectomies by sharing this information. This is very, very important. Heavy periods and other menstrual disorders are often a sign of hypothyroidism, since the thyroid hormones have a tremendous influence on estrogen metabolism and clearance. By the way, progesterone increases thyroid activity. If you are hypothyroid, you are probably progesterone-deficient as well. The connection with breast cancer risk should be obvious.
SOME FEEDBACK ON THE PREMARIN ARTICLE
To my happy surprise, there was only one negative (but not abusive) email in response to the Premarin article, and one unsubscribe (possibly for other reasons; I don’t inquire). Most of the feedback ran along the lines of commenting on the objectivity of the article, how it pointed out the good aspects and the bad aspects.
I thought two responses were of particular interest.
Funny how some people react about Premarin….I think I mentioned a good friend of mine who’s been on it for years (she had a hyst in her 30s – well actually, 3 separate
surgeries, they took it all out a piece at a time). She LOVES horses, and I gave her some info from the old Meno List about how they obtain Premarin, and I tried following up a couple of times with her, eager to convince her to switch to something else (and I did not come on too strong). But she didn’t want to talk about it – Premarin works well for her – and so we just don’t discuss it anymore.
She reminds me of another woman who said, “Between me and them (meaning the mares), I’d rather it was them.” Suffering, that is. But then the manufacturers insist that the mares are treated well.
I know another story along those lines, likewise involving a vegetarian horse lover. Some women are so devoted to Premarin you’d have to put a gun to their heads to make them switch to another product. Like my neighbor down the block, for that matter. For more than two years I regularly bugged her about switching, using barbs such as, “Premarin is natural, but only for a horse. Are you a horse?” She’d chuckle politely and change the subject. It finally dawned on me that after all she was healthy as a horse and maybe it’s best to leave good enough alone. After all, was she was, at sixty nine, hoofing around in her jogging suit at 6 a.m., and would probably still be taking Premarin (hopefully in an improved and fully synthetic form) on her one-hundredth birthday.
I’ve also witnessed how one Premarin user switched to Estrace (for ethical reasons); pretty soon she was back on Premarin, saying that it’s better for her sleep and mood, causes less breast tenderness, and even makes her smell better.
Still, many women refuse to even consider Premarin on ethical grounds, and that’s perfectly legitimate and understandable. There is absolutely no reason to rely on horses!! In fact in the light of present biotechnology, it’s not only cruel — it is RIDICULOUS.
But it keeps the monopoly going.
I also think that the market dominance of Premarin (to put it mildly) may be discouraging other pharmaceutical companies from trying to come up with a BETTER MIX OF ESTROGENS. The competition from Premarin is just too overwhelming.
Before I read your Premarin bit I was under the assumption that it was detrimental due to among other things, the build up in the body. Your article sounds like you’re almost recommending it or at least feel it’s a horse a piece (meaning “equivalent”; pun intended) between Premarin and NHRT.
You’re right: I ALMOST recommend Premarin — for SOME women. There is no evidence that the greater persistence of equine estrogens is harmful. It’s rather an advantage, because the chief disadvantage of using oral or SL human estrogens is their fast metabolism — pretty soon (in less than 6 hrs) you’re deficient again.
Triglyceride rise is a problem, so I wdn’t recommend it for obese women who don’t exercise and eat a lot of bread and pasta and mashed potatoes — particularly if Premarin is all they intend to take, due to hysterectomy.
On the other hand, the lowering of insulin is something such women cd use. And horse hormones do that better, apparently (tho the last word is not in; come to think of it, is the last word EVER in in hormone research?).
Women with gallbladder problems and /or high blood pressure should stay away from oral estrogens. Sublingual Estrace is a possibility, however. College Pharmacy might be able to compound sublingual tri-est.
Truly a good news/bad news situation, and the only thing to do is experiment.
I think for some women comprehensive NHRT and low-dose Premarin might make a good combination, ie triestrogen cream and Premarin can be complementary in a nice way, providing the special benefits of both oral and dermal hormone replacement. The credit for this idea goes to Gillian Ford, in her “Listening to Your Hormones” (though she is mostly into pellet implants as yielding the best estradiol levels).
Are NHRT and Premarin equivalent? That’s not the way I’d put it. To me, NHRT is a holistic approach, advocating the whole spectrum of available hormones, with estrogens balanced by androgens, in individually customized dosages. At this point I see Premarin more as a complementary measure, an addition to the tri-est cream or capsules, for those women for whom 3-E doesn’t quite work (that is, as someone put it, while not exactly disgruntled they are not fully gruntled). Premarin introduces a greater variety of estrogens, each with their special talent, and provides more steady levels. But I don’t necessarily see it as “instead of.” Frankly, we simply don’t know what the optimal mix might be — .625mg of Premarin and 4mg of estriol? Premarin and dermal estrogens? Mind you, a lot of doctors call every estrogen product simply “estrogen,” and assume that “estrogen is estrogen” — in their view, there is no difference between Premarin, Estrace, Ogen, and the rest. Most women patients, however, feel a tremendous difference.
For two big reasons — 1) a much greater possibility of side effects with Premarin 2) the cruelty issue — I’d still recommend trying 3-E first, just in stronger formulas than the classic one, which is extremely weak, and which didn’t eliminate my hot flashes and night sweats even at double dose (nor can it preserve your bones or provide cardiovascular benefits — though it makes a fabulous skin cream. I’ve seen good results, though, starting with E2 at .5mg. Blood tests are needed to see if your estradiol levels are sufficient, ie over 100).
We must, however, face the fact that for some women 3-E does not seem to work all that well, even if they fiddle with the formula and make it a lot stronger. Maybe it’s the individual differences in absorption and metabolism. In any case, such women need to experiment with other available products, hopefully ending up with a hormonal combo that yields truly satisfying results.
As someone who in the past wasted a lot of time trying to get satisfied Premarin users to switch, I have finally come to see that the real culprit in mainstream hormone replacement is not Premarin, but Provera. Most users loathe Provera, and its side effects are the main reason women drop out from hormone replacement altogether. Now Provera is what I call cruelty to women. Let us concentrate on spreading the word about natural progesterone.
WINE: BENEFITS AND POSSIBLE DETRIMENTAL EFFECTS
(main text supplied by Linda Dopierala, with some additions by Ivy)
The medicinal and health benefits of wine have been known for centuries – even the Bible and Shakespeare have extolled its value. Today, thanks to scientific research, doctors and health experts agree that in moderation wine provides many health benefits.
What is the secret of wine’s powerful impact? Research has uncovered at least three:
I. Phenolic Compounds — ANTHOCYANINS AND PROANTHOCYANIDINS
Main benefit: Protection from heart disease
Phenolic compounds, also known as flavonoids, make up a powerful group of antioxidants (stronger even than vitamins C & E combined). The phenolic compounds found in wine, especially red wine, counteract free radicals that are out to sabotage the body. Free radicals attack healthy cells, making them unstable. These damaged cells then cause disease and accelerate the aging process. In fact the free-radical theory of aging, first put forth by Denham Harman, has gained a wider recognition than any other explanation of the process.
Harry Preuss, M.D., professor of medicine and pathology and a well-known researcher of grape-seed from Georgetown University says, “Phenolic compounds in wine help to protect LDL cholesterol from oxidation, which is the main process by which fatal heart attacks and strokes occur.” Grape-seed and grape-skin phenolics also help in the formation of collagen, which is of great importance for all connective tissue and also for blood vessels. These compounds also protect the brain tissue from oxidation, which may be one reason why MODERATE CONSUMPTION OF RED WINE IS ASSOCIATED WITH LOWER INCIDENCE OF ALZHEIMER’S DISEASE.
The source of these polyphenols in red wine is apparently grape skins. Pinot Noir has been found to be the richest natural source of red wine polyphenols.
Main benefit: Protection from cancer
This substance is found not only in wine, but also in a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, including red apples, red and brown onions, and garlic. It is a very powerful antioxidant flavonoid that fights heart disease. However, its cancer-suppressing ability is its greatest strength. A diet high in quercetin has been found to lower the incidence of digestive tract cancers by up to 40%.
California wines have been found to be particularly rich in quercetin.
Main benefits: Protection from atherosclerosis, cancer, arthritis, heart disease, and fungal infections; it is a great anti-inflammatory substance, too!
Of all the health-giving substances in wine, resveratrol is probably the most valuable. This disease-fighting flavonoid is found in the skins of grapes. It is a natural anti-fungicide and bacteria fighter. Due to its ability to decrease platelet activity and oxidation in cells it has the power to increase the good HDL cholesterol levels.
Animal studies have shown that resveratrol also acts as an anti-inflammatory. It falls into the same category as the “super-aspirins” such as the eagerly awaited Celebra and Vioxx. In other words, RESVERATROL IS A COX-2 INHIBITOR, which results in less production of inflammatory prostaglandins while beneficial prostaglandins are produced as usual (hence no side effects typical of aspirin, ibuprofen, and other non-selective NSAIDS). One study showed resveratrol to be more effective than some anti-inflammatory drugs, but since studies on arthritis sufferers have yet to be conducted recommendations are still on hold for this potential benefit.
Recently, a study done at the University of Illinois, Chicago showed that resveratrol successfully inhibited all three stages of cancer — initiation, promotion and progression. There is a likely connection here with resveratrol’s anti-inflammatory properties, since many types of cancer are characterized by runaway production of inflammatory prostaglandins.
Pinot Noir is especially rich in resveratrol.
IV. Miscellaneous nutrients
When it comes to other nutrients, wine stands out as a good source of POTASSIUM. This extremely important element should be in balance with sodium to maintain the body’s water balance and normal heart rhythm. Nerve and muscle function depends on adequate potassium. Fasting, diarrhea, hypoglycemia, mental and physical stress all lead to potassium loss.
Red wine is also a pretty good source of COPPER. Copper is important for the utilization of iron in hemoglobin production. Sometimes the so-called iron-deficiency anemia is actually due to copper deficiency. Copper also appears to play a role in protecting the cardiovascular system and in bone formation. In addition, copper is necessary to assure the utilization of tyrosine to produce hair pigment. Estrogens help increase copper absorption. Chocolate is another good source of copper (and also of magnesium).
Summary of the benefits of red wine:
Because red wine is such a rich source of antioxidant flavonoids, we see benefits against atherosclerosis, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis, and some infections. Wine is also a good source of potassium and copper.
CAUTION: Wine is beneficial ONLY if consumed in light to moderate amounts. For a woman, this means one glass of wine with dinner. Men have more of alcohol detoxification enzymes and more blood volume, and hence can benefit from two glasses a day.
Overindulgence in any form alcohol is linked to many diseases and earlier mortality. Hard liquor is particularly harmful since the alcohol is less diluted. For health benefits, it is best to drink only beer and wine — and always in moderation. Beer also contains polyphenols, in this case derived from hops. Some experts, however, feel that red wine in moderation is best because its abundant beneficial compounds offset the detrimental effects of alcohol. Dr. Willet of Harvard Medical School, for one, believes on the basis of his research that red wine not only provides many benefits, but also does not increase breast cancer risk to any degree, unlike other forms of alcohol.
DOSE IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN HEALING THE BODY AND HURTING THE BODY.
The Effects of Excessive Alcohol:
When used to excess alcohol becomes very harmful to the body. To use a car analogy, alcohol abuse is like putting battery acid in your window-wash dispenser instead of “blue juice”. Not only will it fail to clear your windows, but the overflow causes both external and internal damage. For an average-sized male, four drinks per day on a daily basis are capable of causing organ damage. For women, the limit seems to be two drinks per day, with most experts recommending no more than one. This is because women are not only smaller in size and hence have a lower blood volume in which to dilute the alcohol, but also do not have sufficient enzyme to detoxify a larger amount of alcohol.
Even in smaller amounts alcohol hampers the liver’s ability to process fat. Alcohol destroys brain cells and can cause veins to rupture. However, it launches its sneakiest attack by depleting the body of nutrients and leaving it vulnerable to free radical assaults and rapid aging.
The Counterattack: Nutritional supplements help control alcohol abuse
Research at the University of Texas discovered that nutritious, vitamin-enriched diets decrease the craving for alcohol. Studies have also found the best diet to be one that is high in protein and rich in antioxidants (A,C,D,E); all the B vitamins, especially B12, B6 and B1; calcium, magnesium, choline, inositol, and niacin. Another discovery was TRYPTOPHAN. When taken at bedtime in doses of 500 mg. to 3 grams it relieved some of the alcohol-related chemistry disorders. Glutamine taken in doses of 200 mg. three times a day proved to help in controlling the desire for alcohol as well.
Some studies have shown that nutrient deficiencies may perhaps be a factor in predisposing one to alcoholism, thus suggesting that an optimally nutritious diet combined with special supplements may be the key to controlling alcoholism.
The discovery about the helpfulness of tryptophan in treating alcohol addiction points to an important clue about alcoholism: low serotonin. Fortunately there are many ways to raise serotonin, including certain supplements. These days only hydroxytryptophan is available without prescription, and it seems to work better than tryptophan.
In my view, based on both reading and some real-life observation, it takes four things to conquer alcoholism:
- developing a deep spirituality, or a life philosophy that serves as an equivalent source of emotional strength
- receiving emotional support, preferably including a truly nurturing intimate relationship
- eating right (including certain supplements like GLA and B vitamins),
- taking antidepressants in some form — pharmaceutical grade of hypericum might be preferable to drugs; hydroxytryptophan is also promising.
There is no longer any doubt that alcoholism IS a true disease. Alcoholics really do have a genetically inherited physiological defect: they don’t produce sufficient serotonin, and probably underproduce other “feel-good” chemicals as well. Dr. Sears claims that this stems from defective GLA production. Based on what I’ve read, one could say it’s a lot like the irritability women experience during PMS, another condition characterized by low serotonin and low beta-endorphins. Alcohol quickly raises serotonin — but at a heavy price. To be able to cope with stress and stay sober, alcoholics must find other ways of raising serotonin and endorphins.
SUPPLEMENTS THAT HELP DETOXIFY ALCOHOL
The first rule, pardon the repetition for the sake of emphasis, is of course not to drink to excess. This is particularly true for women, since women can’t detox alcohol as efficiently as men, due both to lower blood volume (because women are typically smaller in size) and lesser availability of certain enzymes. Acetaldehyde (chemically related to formaldehyde) is the main toxic byproduct of alcohol metabolism, and this is precisely where women are at a metabolic disadvantage. For women, I suggest no more than one glass of red wine with dinner, and two glasses a day as a maximum once in a while.
The second rule is to DRINK A LOT OF WATER. Alcohol is very dehydrating, and dehydration alone can make you feel sick and give you a nasty headache.
And now for the supplements. Life Extension Foundation and certain health food stores carry Vitamin B1 (thiamin) in 500mg capsules. Take at least two of those. Also take N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC). This wonderful antioxidant aminoacid performs an amazing magic trick when alcohol is present: it helps convert acetaldehyde into glutathione, a tripeptide amino acid that acts as a very important antioxidant in our bodies (longevity is related to high glutathione levels). This “magic glutathione trick” truly makes me wonder if perhaps the combination of a glass of red wine with NAC and certain co-nutrients would be the optimal way to obtain the benefits of wine.
Speaking of co-nutrients: if you take NAC, you should also take Vitamin C. And you can consider taking SILYMARIN (milk thistle extract), an antioxidant herb that protects the liver and enhances its capacity for detoxifying various compounds, including alcohol. If you drink wine every day, I strongly recommend NAC and silymarin.
FAT-FREE FOODS THAT MAKE YOU FAT
The current obesity epidemic seems to have gathered momentum ever since the introduction of low-fat and non-fat foods. Few people seem to realize that the greatest culprit is processed carbohydrates. When consumed without being opposed with fat and fiber, processed carbohydrates provoke an insulin response, and insulin is THE fattening hormone.
Here is a short list of the most frequently consumed insulin-provoking foods:
- Fat-free rice cakes
- Air-popped popcorn
- Fat-free corn chips, potato chips etc.
- Fat-free crackers
- Mashed potatoes
- Carrot juice (add spinach, celery, or other green vegetable juice to lower the insulin response)
- Most fruit juice
- Dried fruit (high fiber content and laxative properties of prunes and dates counteract this somewhat)
- Any sweet fruit in excess
- Creamed corn and other vegetable purees
Also remember to eliminate or restrict sugar, bread, cereals (especially puffed rice or any other puffed, sugary cereal), and unopposed white rice.
Let me explain what I mean by “unopposed rice.” The way the Chinese eat rice is with lots of semi-raw high-fiber vegetables and with a certain amount of meat and fat. They further lower the insulin response to rice by drinking green tea with their meals. Green tea inhibits the enzyme amylase, thus slowing down the breakdown of rice starch into glucose.
The same goes for yams, carrots, beets, and other root vegetables. Root vegetables provide such wonderful phytonutrients that it would be a shame to exclude them from your diet just because they can produce that fattening insulin surge. Keep eating root vegetables, but observe these rules:
- Do not overcook — overcooked, mushy vegetables turn into glucose much faster.
- Season with a little healthy fat — yes, a small amount of butter does qualify. Butter has been demonized; now we know that it’s margarine that wreaks real havoc on your cardiovascular system, besides promoting tumor growth.
- Eat sufficient protein
- Do not skip salad (fiber, olive oil)
- Keep portions moderate; stop before that stuffed feeling sets in
- Eat slowly and enjoy each morsel; a glass of dry red wine will help you relax and eat more slowly. An extra benefit is that dry red wine such as Cabernet actually lowers insulin levels and provides wonderful antioxidants (see the article on the benefits of wine).
So: beware of processed fat-free carbohydrates. And drink green tea and/or take the green tea extract. It’s terrific antioxidant protection, and apparently it helps keeps you slender. Remember: the key is to keep insulin at low levels.
THE SIMPLE MAGIC EXERCISE TO KEEP YOU SLENDER BY LOWERING INSULIN
What is another way to keep insulin down? Burn that glucose for energy. Deliver it to the muscles. Obesity is really an energy problem: your cells are stuffed with glucose, but they are not burning it.
Here is the magic trick: 15 to 20 minutes after a meal, take a brisk walk. It doesn’t even have to be all that brisk, as long as you keep moving. Ideally, you should feel hotter as a result — that’s a sign that you are burning carbohydrates to produce heat.
How long should you walk? Even a ten-minute walk will do something for you, though if you can possibly stretch it longer, past 40 minutes or so, chances are you will get to the fat-burning stage and thus actually start losing body fat rather than just holding steady.
For serious fat loss, work out on a treadmill 15 to 20 minutes after a meal. Treadmill has been shown to be the most effective exercise machine.
SUPER CANCER PREVENTION: THE SHIITAKE SOUP
I have a recipe that I feel impassioned about having made available to the masses. It is for shiitake mushroom broth/soup. I read so much about mushrooms. It is not the whole mushroom that is important but rather the spores that are emitted during the simmering in water.
8 shiitake mushrooms (sliced in thirds)
1/2 red onion (thinly sliced)
3/4 cup shredded cabbage (the prepackaged kind works great!)
2 T olive oil… (I prefer extra virgin, first press)
A good dash of Braggs (huge dash to taste)
dash of pepper (minimal)
Bring all the above ingredients to a boil. At that time of boiling, reduce heat and keep the “soup” simmering for 20 minutes. Serve.
This is a significant anti-cancer soup that tastes great. I’ve been doing this several times per week. It is so easy to prepare and tastes amazing, hard to believe it is actually doing something on a major anti-oxidant, cancer maintenance level.
CyberHealth thanks Ariel, on behalf of the masses.
This really is a great cancer-preventive soup. The new wonder supplement for the treatment of cancer is MGN-3, which is a combination of rice bran extract and shiitake extract. Shiitake cost more, but just the taste is worth it! You will never be satisfied with plain white button mushrooms again.
In case you don’t know what Braggs is: it is an extract of soy beans that is an easy substitute for chicken or beeth broth. You can also try substituting some Tamari, a naturally fermented soy sauce. One variation on this recipe is to increase the amount of shiitake and add a few baby carrots. If you don’t care for shredded cabbage, a wedge of ordinary cabbage will do.
Ariel turned me into a shiitake addict, and I am planning to serve this soup on Christmas Eve.
HOT TIP: BROCCOLINI
Check your market: baby broccoli, or broccolini, is here. Much more delicate than ordinary broccoli. But does the sweeter flavor mean less anti-cancer protection? Oh well, you can always enjoy broccolini, and get your cancer protection from shredded cabbage and the rest of those crucifers.
* * * BEAUTY CORNER* * *
LET MAMMA SAVE YOUR NECK
Midlife women know that it is easier to save your face than to save your neck. That is where aging really shows.
Fortunately one helpful neck exercise is very simple: you stretch your neck upwards, push your lower lip over your upper lip as high as it will go, and say Mamma.
Yes, you must say Mamma, not only to honor motherhood, but because there is something unique about that sound that exercises the throat muscles.
Jessica Krane, who is my source for this exercise, also suggests that you very gently stroke your upwards as you say Mamma, one Mamma per stroke. Be sure not to neglect the middle portion of your neck.
While Jessica suggests warm oil as a lubricant for the stroking, I have found that the .3% estriol cream is terrific for this.
This is marvelously relaxing when done close to bedtime.
**** CARE OF THE SOUL ****
YOU ALWAYS HAVE SOMETHING TO GIVE
I am reminded of a little story I read about a woman who was in financial trouble, and asked her minister what she should do. The reply she received was that in order to receive, one must first give. (Compare: “As you give, so you shall receive.”)
“But I’m so poor, I have nothing to give,” the woman said. “We always have something to give,” the minister answered. The woman went home, saw that there were flowers in her garden, and cut some down for a bouquet which she then brought to a neighbor who she knew was old, sick, and lonely. The neighbor was overjoyed and thanked her profusely. Later that day, the woman had a job interview. Empowered by her act of giving and the affectionate gratitude she received, she radiated self-confidence instead of her customary negativity. She got the job.
I am not saying that an act of giving will always produce such immediate concrete results. The only thing one can predict with certainty is that giving from the heart will make you feel better and will bring as much or more joy to you as to the person who does the receiving.
But even that is not the point of this story. It’s rather than we are never too poor to give something precious — the gift of empathy, of warm, life-giving connection with another human being. Yes, we always have something to give.
PUT YOURSELF ON YOUR GIFT LIST
Just as I finished writing the previous little essay, luckily I received email from Bess — and realized that women need to hear — again and again — that giving includes giving to yourself.
I had a dream where two very helpful, friendly people were telling me it was okay and safe to put down the bags I was carrying (which contained Xmas gifts for people I knew, but none of them were expensive). But I was in a strange place (though it looked perfectly safe) and I kept telling them I could NOT put my bags down, that I didn’t trust that it was safe enough to leave them.
So, despite wanting to be free to explore the neighborhood, I could not do so while carrying those bags of gifts. They really held me back….. and I spent most of the dream trying to explain why I couldn’t put them down.
Hanging onto those gifts for others was a higher priority than “exploring” for myself. This really gives me pause…..
I loved your “Care of the Soul” section. I also enjoyed what Ariel wrote about sandy soil……of course, a beach is all sandy “soil”, yet look at all the beauty there, at the edge of the ocean. But surely there is a sheltered spot near this beach were I can plant my
garden, and still hear the dolphins leaping and the whales sounding, and the seagulls calling overhead, and I can run or walk with the warm sand under my feet — yet still go back to my sheltered garden to admire the Morning Glories on my trellis and smell the other flowers growing there in the warm midday sun……..
(an image especially appealing on this dark, rainy day). Also, this would be a perfect spot in which to have quiet time alone, or to sit and paint…..
What a fabulous dream — two soul guide figures appear to tell the dreamer that she should take care of her own needs rather than deprive herself by excessive giving. Note that the gifts are not really expensive — this could be the questioning of their value. And then we learn that Bess would like to paint. The really valuable gifts she could give to others are probably tied to her artistic talent. It is not selfish to give time, education, or self-care to yourself. It is not selfish to “indulge” in the kind of work you love doing. In the long run, when you truly give to yourself, you are also giving to others; when you give (non-self-destructively) to others, you are giving to yourself. Sometimes you need to give to yourself first — then you have much more to give to others.
HOLIDAY CHEER: ALL I NEED TO KNOW ABOUT LIFE I LEARNED FROM A SNOWMAN
Linda sends us this holiday wisdom (from a Christmas card):
It’s OK if you’re a little bottom-heavy.
We’re all made up of mostly water.
Wearing white is always appropriate.
There’s nothing better than a foul-weather friend.
It’s not the size of the carrot but the placement that counts.
Accessorize! Accessorize! Accessorize!
Don’t get too much sun.
Hold your ground, even when the heat is on.
Always put your best foot forward.
There’s no stopping you once you’re on a roll.
Happy Holidays !!!!!!